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South Africa

Oppositionists demand action on Zondo and edge towards coalition

Talks in parliament will boost inter-party cooperation as leaders mull an electoral pact

Talk of a national coalition government in South Africa after the 2024 elections – some say even before – is gathering steam with a meeting on tactics in Cape Town on 25 May.

The main opposition groupings – Action SA, the Democratic Alliance (DA), Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF), Freedom Front Plus (FFP), Inkatha Freedom Party (IFP), Patriotic Alliance (PA) and the United Democratic Movement (UDM) – will meet in parliament before going on to ask the speaker Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula to schedule a special debate on the findings of Justice Raymond Zondo's commission on state capture. 

The meeting with Mapisa-Nqakula on the Zondo commission is both a procedural and a partisan issue. Opposition parties argue that parliament should not have to wait for the governing African National Congress to set the timetable for a substantive debate on the commission's findings.

The ANC majority in parliament has several times postponed President Cyril Ramaphosa's formal response to Zondo's findings and his announcement of an implementation plan (AC Vol 63 No 10, Zondo hands ANC a time-bomb). The latest date for Zondo to deliver the fourth and final report is 15 June. Ramaphosa will then have four months to draft a plan.

Oppositionists suspect the government wants to delay any substantive action on the Zondo report until after the ANC holds its elective conference in December for fear it could derail the vote for the party's new top officials (AC Vol 63 No 8, Ramaphosa heading for second term).

At a meeting of opposition parties on 15 March, leader of the UDM, Bantu Holomisa, said they should consider how the ANC and its leaders benefitted from state capture: 'There is a healthy and justified lack of trust in the government to implement the [Zondo] findings and recommendations. The ANC President stands with his feet in two ponds, with severely divided loyalties.' Holomisa asked whether the ANC could be forced to refund the monies paid into its accounts from corrupt activities.

The procedural issue the opposition parties want to discuss is the setting of new rules and protocols for forming coalitions. So far, all the coalitions have been at provincial and city level. When no one party gets more than 50% of the votes, the parties have 14 days to put together a coalition. Holomisa and other opposition politicians want to see longer and more wide-ranging negotiations, as in Germany, between the parties before coalitions are agreed.

Some of the biggest municipalities in the country are run by coalitions currently, with mixed results. There are some councils run by coalitions in the Free State and KwaZulu-Natal that have sharply improved conditions and service delivery since the 2021 elections, when the ANC's average share of the vote across the country fell below 50%.

Plans for protocols on national coalitions took on a new urgency after the ANC's head of policy and former Justice Minister Jeff Radebe warned on 20 May that the party could lose it majority in parliament in the 2024 elections unless it made far-reaching policy changes to boost growth and social welfare (AC Vol 63 No 4, Basic Income Grants move up agenda as ANC policy fights intensify).

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